NORMAN — Carol Stoops went back to her hometown of Cresco, Iowa, recently to visit family.
During her stay in the tiny town less than 10 minutes south of the Minnesota state line, she made time to visit the house she grew up in. The house where she had birthday parties and sleepovers and holidays. The house where her parents lived for 56 years.
Stoops got a little weepy standing there in the front yard.
They were happy tears, not just for her good fortune but for that of her three children.
“Boy, our kids are lucky to have an upbringing like I did, to be in the same place the whole way through high school,” she said. “My memories aren’t all over the country. They’re in my little town.
“Our kids’ will be here.”
Here in Norman.
On the day that Oklahomans ring in the start of the college football season, Stoops’ husband, Bob, will begin his 16th season as Oklahoma’s football coach. He will also coach his 200th game for the Sooners.
It’s a significant milestone. Only three other active major-college football coaches — Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Troy’s Larry Blakeney and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder — have coached more games at one school. And if Stoops stays through 2020 and the end of his current contract, he’ll approach the 300-game plateau only reached by six coaches, legends like Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and Tom Osborne.
In a nomadic profession, Stoops’ stability is a rarity.
“I agree with you — it isn’t easy in today’s world,” Stoops said earlier this week when I asked about it. “A lot of people want change because they always feel the grass is greener on the other side.”
Schools often feel that way.
So do coaches.
But Stoops has stayed, even as attractive and wealthy suitors have come calling, and OU decision makers have never wavered in their support of him.
“I consider myself fortunate, lucky, blessed to be at a place like this for so long,” Stoops said. “My family has been raised in one place, which doesn’t happen much in my profession.”
That is likely something that few outside of the coaching profession think about. It’s rarely considered. It’s underrated.
Unless you’re part of a coaching family.
Carol Stoops remembers when Bob got hired at Kansas State. It was their third stop in three years, having gone from a volunteer position at Iowa to an assistant spot at Kent State for a year before landing in Manhattan.
Carol, then a math teacher, knew they were living the percentages — coaches on average stayed in one place less than three years — so she didn’t see much reason to spend a bunch of money at the house. She didn’t put up drapes, much less decorate.
Then another coach’s wife stopped by.
“You need to plant yourself wherever you go,” she told Carol. “You put up drapes. You make a home a home as if you’re going to be there forever.”
Her thinking was forever changed. Everywhere that Bob has been since, Carol has thought of it as their forever home.
Still, it’s a little crazy in the coaching profession that they have managed to call one place home for 15-plus years. When they arrived in Norman, daughter Mackie was a toddler and twins Drake and Isaac were still in utero. Now, Mackie is a high school senior and the boys are just starting high school.
“We just take life as it comes,” she said. “We always have. We’ve never looked for the next job or the next place. If you live like that in our world, you can just never be happy anywhere because you’re always looking for the next.
“But looking back now ... it’s amazing that it happened this way. I just consider us all incredibly fortunate.”
There are lots of other folks who feel the same about the Stoops clan having stayed in Norman all these years, too.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.